My fingers scrolled through my Facebook feed as I went through other people’s lives, random pictures, food videos and frequent opinion pieces on whatever the “hot news” that day was. A few months ago I was that hot news and what a nightmare it was. As I read about the protests against the molestation of a woman at Banaras Hindu University, my eyes flashed across words— protest, campus, safe, violence, lathi charge—that took me back to the time when I found myself at the centre of controversy. In February this year, protests wracked Delhi University after the ABVP attacked a peaceful agitation at Ramjas College. When I raised my voice against the incident and also expressed my views on Indo-Pak relations, I was subjected to incessant trolling as well as rape and death threats. Although there was a protest held in support of me, how much have we really learned?
I was subjected to incessant trolling as well as rape and death threats. Although there was a protest held in support of me, how much have we really learned?
We as a society have become so immune to student protests—after all, there seems to be one erupting every month—that we can barely keep track. But isn’t it a shame?
In a country where people lack access to education and where earning a meal at the age of 11 becomes a priority over learning basic math, we are doing little to make our educational spaces more appealing and welcoming. Instead, we are doing the exact opposite—hiking fees, cutting seats and financial aid, quashing voices of dissent, ignoring instances of campus molestation. During the election months we see and hear politicians and leaders give elaborate speeches from overly decorated jhankis about “desh ka vikas”, but really, how do we expect a our country to progress when we cannot even provide safe educational spaces to the youth.
The BHU protests showed us yet again how we as a nation, as a society, have once again failed to understand the plight of women. Students of Banaras Hindu University were protesting against the molestation of a student inside the campus when they were charged at with lathis; some were even taken into police custody.
A student was allegedly molested and harassed by men on a motorcycle outside her hostel on 21 September at 6pm. When students protested in large numbers to demand a “molestation-free campus,” BHU’s vice-chancellor stated that if he started listening to every girl’s complaint he wouldn’t be able to run the university.
It is a shame that in a country where women are constantly facing threats to their life and modesty, even our top universities’ authorities blatantly refuse to promise us safety.
It is a shame that in a country where women are constantly facing threats to their life and modesty, even our top universities’ authorities blatantly refuse to promise us safety. And this is attitude not limited to just this one particular incident. Punjab University, Delhi University and JNU, for example, have all been sites of protest where the authorities have dismissed the plight of students. And while the media covers these conflagrations for a while, something else comes up and nothing on the ground changes. Whether it was JNU protests last year or Ramjas protests earlier this year, the students have had to face severe criticism for being too political or for being driven by ulterior motives. It is funny how they are not provided with basic rights within campuses, but when they do demand their dues—even asking for something as simple as a safe space to learn—they become the villains.
Such incidents really make me wonder about the kind of people who are holding high positions in our society. What kind of leaders are they? What kind of people are these who will go to any extent to dismiss any plea for safety on campus? Who has polluted their minds?
Maybe we deserve the leaders we have or maybe we could take the bull by the horns and shake some sense into it. The call, as citizens, will always be ours and as citizens, we hold all the responsibility. We cannot expect women’s empowerment if we don’t stand up today for the young girls of BHU who have stepped into the eye of the storm and taken up the responsibility to change things for the better. Let us not let them down. Stand with BHU.
The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of HuffPost India. Any omissions or errors are the author’s and HuffPost India does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.